Happy Employees = Profitable Business

The business climate is still a shaky one. Uncertainty reigns supreme. Because of the State of Emergency, many businesses have no choice but to lay off staff because the volume of business just isn’t there to warrant retaining as many employees to serve during the limited operating hours and dwindling customer base.

This decision has come at a price. Those employees who remain on payroll are now being asked to do more for the same compensation. Although unhappy about this arrangement, after seeing their coworkers laid off, these employees accept the unspoken truth: “Be happy that you still have a job at all.”

The happiness level that these remaining employees express regarding having a job in these times does not however transfer to the job they’re actually doing. As glad as most are to still be working, their level of satisfaction and their loyalty to the businesses they work for have eroded. With fears about job security and few prospects for changing jobs in the present economic climate, these employees “soldier on,” – biding their time.

Biding time is not a very good attitude or approach and does not create an environment that will yield profitable results any time soon.

Whenever I am working with a small business towards reinvention there is a questionnaire that I give to all the employees which they answer anonymously. This approach gives me some assurance that they are answering truthfully and not saying things so that they are not singled out or in some cases victimized for their answers.

The Gallup Q12 employee engagement survey starts with the question “Do you know what is expected of you at work?” and ends with “In the last year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?” Once the survey is complete I tally the results and present it to the management team and almost always the team members are shocked by the employee’s responses. They argue, and fret and in some cases feel hurt that their good intentions go unrecognized by the very people that they lead.

There is a definite disconnect between what employers perceive and what employees actually feel. Although the economic climate is a toughie – many employees are actively looking for work and hoping to work elsewhere within the next year. Employers on the other hand, perceive employees to be more loyal than they are.

Business owners need to wake up and pay attention. Employees can get on your best nerve at most times but without good employees where will you be? And when things get better as we know they will – will your business be the kind of business that employees voluntarily choose to remain loyal to, even though the benefits are not as attractive as your competitor who is persistently head hunting in your territory?

There is a reason Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement survey starts with the question “Do you know what is expected of you at work?” It’s because crystal clarity is the single most important factor in determining whether or not you have a workplace that will attract and retain top performers.  Even marginal uncertainty can undermine the focus on an entire organization.

Michael Hyatt of Intentional Leadership recently provided some useful nuggets to providing the kind of work environment where people are happier operating in an environment of accountability:

  1. Spell out key responsibilities in writing and review it again and again. If people don’t know how they are being measured, it is difficult for them to be accountable for delivering results!
  2. You must spell out what new behaviors are expected, who will be measuring them, and how often…and then actually do it! Otherwise, just save yourself the time and frustration of rolling out another new program.
  3. Most training introduces new skills. Terrific! But how many persist after 30 days? Typically few. If you want your training to deliver a lasting impact, translate the learnings into specific behaviors that must change. Prioritize them among existing priorities. Publicize them. Measure whether or not they are done.  Don’t just go through the motions with training and expect things to be different this time.

While this sounds simple enough, pitfalls are common and managers and leaders must focus, think long-term, and seek to eliminate these non-progressive beliefs:

  1. People will work harder only if they get paid more and are given perks
  2. Everyone can excel at anything provided they try hard enough
  3. Master how to treat one employee – master all employees

There is no simple solution. Increase in pay does not mean a corresponding increase in loyalty or the happiness factor amongst your employees. However you need to start really living what most pay lip service to – that “People are an organization’s most valuable asset.”

Your organization is filled with people with varying talents in all different combinations. Start looking at what each person is bringing to the table and quit trying to fix “weaknesses” and perhaps by getting to know the people who work for you better and showing them how to leverage their strengths you will end up with happy employees (the authentic way) – and a more profitable business.

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